The Attention Network Test (ANT) is an experimental task used to study three attentional networks simultaneously: alerting, orienting, and executive control. The three attentional networks originally discussed in Posner’s Attention Network theory (Posner & Peterson, 1990), include:
- Subcortical or Alerting System: The alerting system is the most primitive attention network in the human brain which is involved in an individual’s response to an alert or warning signal, such as danger.
- Posterior or Orienting System: The orienting system involves an individual’s directional response (the location to which an individual should direct their attention) when exposed to sensory information (e.g., spatial cues).
- Executive Control System: The executive control system is responsible for conflict resolution.
Note that the study of attention is a major part of cognitive psychology, with attentional network systems being the focus of cognitive neuroscience research for years. While various theoretical models have been established to explore the nature of attention (Posner, 1978; Eriksen and Eriksen, 1974), the understanding of the human brain keeps evolving.
The Attention Network Test is a computerized task implemented in the PEBL (Psychology Experiment Building Language) system. The test requires minimal instructions and reveals numerous benefits in research and practice. To set an example, the Attentional Network Test can enhance the understanding of attention-related disorders, attention-shifting performance, and brain circuits involved in attention.